Annual Review 2011
Bias motivated violence
- The Ministry for Security and Justice published its annual figures about bias motivated incidents for 2010 and the number of registered incidents increased by 54%, from 428 (in 2009) to 659 incidents (in 2010). A number of cases of bias motivated violence against LGBT people were also reported in the media.
- During IDAHO in May, a group of seventeen national churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church assisted by COC Netherlands and LKP, the umbrella organisation for religious LGBT groups, issued a Declaration against Homophobic Violence. Apart from condemning violations of the human rights of lesbians and gay men, the churches stated that they would work at the international ecclesiastical level to oppose homophobia. The Declaration was launched in Utrecht, which is historically the ecclesiastical centre of the country, and was supported by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, as well as the Mayor of Utrecht.
- A lesbian couple from Haarlem fi led reports with the police and their housing association after receiving death threats, homophobic abuse, and being stalked by a man who had consistently insulted them for three years and who was seen speaking to a neighbour. Another lesbian couple who was physically attacked, received pornographic images through their letter box and had death threats made in the street, stopped walking hand in hand for fear of what might be said or done to them and decided to move from Amsterdam to the east of the Netherlands, where, although the region is known for being more conservative, they felt safer than in the city. They did not report the incidents to the police as they did not know who was behind them.
- In response to a request from COC Netherlands, the Minister for Security and Justice increased by 100% the sentence requirement for crimes with homo-/transphobic motivation.
In May, a book which recounts the experiences of lesbian and gay members of the Dutch Salvation Army was published. The publication and recommendations were presented to the Territorial Commander of the Dutch Salvation Army who acknowledged the existence of a problem in the Netherlands and abroad, and expressed his hope that the situation would change and acknowledged that the Dutch Salvation Army could play a role in ensuring genuine dialogue at the international level.
In November, after intense advocacy, and a national petition, initiated by COC Netherlands, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science agreed to require Dutch schools to provide education about sexual and gender diversity in society. In June, a majority of Members of Parliament had asked that such lessons to be made a compulsory part of the curriculum for all primary and secondary schools but the Minister had initially resisted the move.
Equality and non-discrimination
The Minister of Education, Culture and Science presented a comprehensive new policy document LGBT and Gender Equality Policy Plan of the Netherlands 2011-2015, addressing issues as diverse as acceptance of LGBT people in schools, healthcare and religious circles. After COC Netherlands successfully pressed for a paragraph on LGBT emancipation in the government agreement of 2010, the annual budget for this area was increased by about 40%, from €3.5 million to €5.5 million in 2011.
- 2011 marked the 10th anniversary of the introduction of marriage equality for same-sex couples in the Netherlands, the fi rst country in the world to do so. COC Netherlands focussed on a variety of inequalities that remain, in particular the fact that registrars can and do refuse to marry same-sex couples. In the first half of the year, 58 local councils employed 102 registrars who refused to marry same-sex couples. In May, Amsterdam City Council said it would assign two registrars who refused to marry same-sex couples to other duties. However, in June, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science informed Members of Parliament that, under an exception to the legislation which provided for weddings for same-sex couples, civil servants who had religious objections could refuse to conduct such marriages. In August, Groningen City Council announced that it would not renew the contracts of three registrars who would not conduct marriages for same-sex couples. In October, the government postponed a decision on whether or not to allow city councils to employ offi cials who refused to marry same-sex couples. In November, following public action by COC Netherlands, the Lower House of Parliament passed a resolution requiring the government to end the exception for registrars to be allowed not to marry same-sex couples. The government decided not to immediately apply the resolution and was awaiting a report on the matter from the Council of State. The Hague City Council fi red a registrar who stated in a newspaper interview that he would not marry same-sex couples even though the City Council has a policy that does not allow for such refusal. The employee said he will take the City Council to Court.
- In November, the government announced that it would be introducing a temporary residence permit for LGBT immigrants who wanted to move to the Netherlands to be with their partner but who could not currently do so if they were not married. The short-term permit would enable partners to fi rst get married in the Netherlands and then obtain an ordinary residency permit. The new system would also be available to other couples who are not allowed to marry because of religious or other legal restrictions.
- COC Netherlands has long been pressing for equal parenting rights for non-biological mothers in lesbian couples. While a heterosexual non-biological father in the Netherlands can become the parent of the child of his female partner by means of a simple administrative procedure, a lesbian non-biological mother is required to go through a time-consuming full adoption procedure. In 2011, the Secretary of State for Security and Justice issued a legislative proposal to give the non-biological lesbian mother equal rights. Parliament is expected to vote in favour of the proposal in 2012.
- A guide which lists the names and addresses of churches that are happy to conduct marriages for same-sex couples was published. Churches could receive a sticker which states This is a Coming Out Church.
In August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it was setting aside €35 million for an HIV/AIDS Programme so that LGBT individuals, drug users and sex workers, across 16 countries, could get better access to information, condoms, antiretroviral treatment and medical care.
Legal gender recognition
- Since 2008, Transgender Netwerk Nederland (TNN) and COC Netherlands have advocated for changes in the gender recognition law and the abolition of compulsory sterilisation. In 2011, the Secretary of State for Security and Justice presented a draft law that abolishes compulsory sterilisation. Civil society organisations commented on the draft, which is expected to be debated in parliament in 2012.
- In September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published Controlling Bodies, Denying Identities: Human Rights Violations against Trans People in the Netherlands. The report documents the impact of the 1985 law on gender identity recognition on the daily life of trans people. HRW claims that the law violates transgender people’s rights to personal autonomy and physical integrity and denies them the ability to defi ne their own gender identity. The launch of this report strengthened the call for the abolishment of the compulsory sterilisation requirement and other unnecessary medical requirements that are found in the current law.
Police and law enforcement
- In March, two gay men fi led suit against the Utrecht Council, the local police force and the State because, after being harassed by their neighbours for over a year, they were forced to sell their home for less than the market value and leave the city. They fi led multiple police reports about vandalism to their car and bricks being thrown through their windows, and they moved because the police said there was nothing they could do about the harassment. They asked the court to order the public prosecutor to charge those who harassed them, and they wanted damages from the police, City Council and the State. In July, the Court of Appeal in Arnhem rejected the couple’s request to issue an order that the youths who harassed them be prosecuted, considering that a new investigation was pointless, in part due to how much time had lapsed since the crimes were committed. However, the Court did fi nd that both the police and Council had been negligent in their handling of the complaints. The couple intend to sue the Council, police and the State.
- In October, a hotline was set up by tri-weekly magazine Gay Krant following a number of incidents in which same-sex couples were forced to leave their homes, including the Utrecht case. Within the fi rst few days, the hotline received almost 100 reports from couples saying they were regularly harassed by neighbours, and the attorney general set up a meeting to discuss the issue with the paper’s editor-in-chief. Within less than a month, over 200 reports of homophobic abuse had been made to the hotline. The national Ombudsman and the public prosecutors service said they supported the initiative and police forces in the Netherlands were to be issued with guidelines on dealing with homophobic bullying and violence.
- According to data from human rights organisations and police forces, by the end of 2011, there were at least 34 reported cases of people who left their neighbourhoods because of high levels of homophobic harassment.
- In the run up to Amsterdam Pride in August, the police adopted a zero tolerance approach to homophobic violence and the public prosecution Department had set aside 8 November for any cases arising out of off ences committed over the Pride weekend. Prosecutors said that in cases where violence resulted in specialist medical involvement they would request that any sentence be doubled.